Bulls' loss really not so distressing
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Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams, left, and center Brook Lopez surround the Bulls' Jimmy Butler in the second half of Game 5 Monday night.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and I have a difference of opinion.
He was distressed by his team's 19-point loss Monday night, and I was impressed that it was able to hang within a point midway through the fourth quarter.
Of course, no coach is going to be happy about any game his team loses, but despite the Nets' 110-91 victory at Brooklyn, the Bulls still have a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series with Game 6 scheduled for Thursday night back in the United Center.
"The home court's not going to win it for us," Thibodeau said in one of his customary grumps. "We're going to have to play well. We have to get things corrected."
Thibodeau specifically means the Bulls' defense and rebounding, both of which were dominated by the Nets.
"You gotta fight," Thibodeau said.
Yes, but defensively the Bulls were at a significant disadvantage without injured Kirk Hinrich to chase Nets point guard Deron Williams around the court. Meanwhile, Bulls rebounders Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are hobbling around on wobbly lower-body injuries.
Considering all the adversity this season — starting with the season-long absence of injured superstar point guard Derrick Rose — what the Bulls have accomplished is remarkable.
Compiling 45 victories during the regular season without Rose was unexpected. Leading this postseason series also was.
At least to me they were.
So at this point I can't be as bothered by the Game 5 loss as Thobodeau was, though we're probably equally concerned about the Bulls' odds of responding in Game 6.
The Bulls finally look like you might have anticipated them looking a month or two ago: exhausted, physically fragile and running on fumes.
"This is the playoffs," Thibodeau said unyieldingly. "It's going to be hard-fought. You can find an excuse if you want one, but you have to have mental toughness."
The Bulls have had mental toughness throughout the season because Thibodeau demanded the same way he did after this loss.
That's how the Bulls won all those games right through taking the lead in this series. That might also be why they looked mentally, physically and emotionally drained at the end of Game 5.
The Bulls didn't have the United Center to pump them up this time, the Nets did have the Barclays Center, and that might have been the difference during the final minutes.
"Neither of us is getting a way from each other," Nets head coach P.J. Carlesimo said of the Bulls and Nets.
The way the series has been breaking down, the Bulls have had an edge in heart and resolve while the Nets have an edge in talent and health.
The energy factor might be canceling out the Bulls' advantages, though they do have a couple of days to get their legs back that I saw missing and to correct the mistakes Thibodeau saw happening.
Another factor in Game 5 was that the Nets had to rally from a disheartening three-overtime loss two days earlier or be eliminated. The Bulls, on the other hand, always had that Game 6 at home to fall back on Thursday night.
Anyway, to me the point isn't that the Bulls lost this Game 5. It's that they won three of the first four in the series as tired as they should be and at times appear to be.
"Right from the start," Thibodeau said of this loss, "they were reacting to the ball better than we were."
So, again, overall Thibodeau was bothered that the Nets' final victory margin was 19 points and I was uplifted that the Bulls were within a point midway through the fourth quarter.
Just different perspectives, which isn't unusual for a basketball coach and a newspaperman.
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